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SAN DIEGO-Many condo projects that investors had excitedly buzzed about for months are being re-thought or completely scrapped now that the craze is over; however, those onboard the luxury “crazy” train have managed to maintain their enthusiasm.

This is because the high sticker price and plethora of amenities involved with luxury condos mean that they don’t attract the average buyer.

“We really don’t compete with a condo conversion,” says Peggy O’Connell, vice president of sales and marketing for the Douglas Wilson Cos., the development company for The Mark, a $155-million mixed-use luxury high-rise condo project in Downtown San Diego that is slated for completion in 2007. “Most of our units are priced from $700,000 to $800,000 so we have a completely different clientele than many of the condo conversions.”

The difference in clients’ price points, O’Connell believes, is what differentiates projects like the Mark from the average condo project. And maintaining a separate identity is exactly what the luxury projects need now that the craze has slowed.

Projects like Downtown Los Angeles’ Standard Pacific, which had only sold 41 of its 272 units when it was abandoned, failed to take off, experts say, because investors entered into deals when the housing boom was at its peek. When that peek plummeted, so did sales.

Many believe that one way condo investors can avoid the axe is by holding back some of a project’s top-priced units during most of the presale phase. This is in the hopes that the best units will garnish enough attention and interest that a waiting list or top-dollar bidding will usually result. And the Douglas Wilson Co. believes it.

“We have 147 contracts [out of 220 one- and two-bedroom condominiums, 13 penthouse suites and 11 town homes] and we won’t release the last phase until next year,” O’Connell notes. “When we’re closer to completion and can take people into the building so they can really experience what they’d be getting.”

So far, construction crews have completed the frame of the Mark’s 32-story steel-and-glass tower that will reach 380 feet, making it the tallest building in Downtown San Diego’s East Village area. The project will also encompass 10,000 sf of retail space that will open on Market Street. Leases on three of the six retail spaces are currently being finalized.

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